Sigh, That Erica Jong Piece in the Times

07/11/2011 11:31 AM |

It does not surprise me that this is Erica Jongs view of the world
  • Jen Hsei/New York Times
  • It does not surprise me that this is Erica Jong’s view of the world

On Saturday, the Times published a long-ass opinion piece by Erica Jong called “Is Sex Passé?” and it’s exactly what you’d expect: she’s grousing about how us gals today don’t have the sexual freedom she had and also we’re all doing it wrong. Which, let me be clear. Erica Jong is awesome. She has done so very much for advancing the cause of sexual freedom. But I find this kind of “we fought so hard so women could fuck whoever they wanted and now they just want to get married and have babies” piece exhausting.

First off, thanks to people like Ms. Jong, it’s pretty much accepted that young ladies sleep with a bunch of people before they get married and have babies, if they choose to do that. Secondly, her sample size for “women today” seems to be her daughter and her daughter’s friends, which makes me say wait, so you had a kid, too then right? What’s the difference?

But perhaps what I find tiresome about writing like this is the sort of offhand universalizing of one’s (perhaps unusual) personal experiences. I mean, I understand that it’s an opinion piece. But the radical zipless fuck sexual freedom of Erica Jong’s youth was far from the universal norm for people at the time, based on my parents and all of their friends and all of the adults I grew up with, in suburban Texas. And it sounds like her daughter is not exactly the “average” thirty-something, growing up white and wealthy in New York with Erica Jong for a mom.

Take this for example:

Not only did we fail to corrupt our daughters, but we gave them a sterile way to have sex, electronically. Clearly the lure of Internet sex is the lack of involvement. We want to keep the chaos of sex trapped in a device we think we can control.

Clearly the lure of internet sex is the lack of involvement, unless you live somewhere where it is difficult for you to find sex partners, or have a kink that is not shared by anyone in your community, or a have a disability that prevents you from easily being able to have other kinds of sex, or unless you prefer internet sex because you prefer it. What happened to freedom? It’s only freedom if you “freely” make the same choices as Erica Jong?

Plus this is just sort of ridiculous:

Does this mean there are no sexual taboos left? Not really. Sex between older people is the new unmentionable, the thing that makes our kids yell, “Ewww — gross!” You won’t find many movies or TV shows about 70-year-olds falling in love, though they may be doing it in real life.

Yes, the only sexual taboo left is the one that directly affects you. Surely gay sex is not culturally stigmatized in any way. People who are gender queer, trans, have disabilities, are fat, enjoy all sorts of BDSM/kinky sex, none of these people have to fight against cultural sexual stigma.

Gay sex seems not really to be on the radar at all in this piece. See this part:

Different though we are, men and women were designed to be allies, to fill out each other’s limitations, to raise children together and give them different models of adulthood.

The whole thing seems to recognize straight sex as the only sex, or at least the only kind she’s interested in talking about. Which is fine, I guess, but it kind of does that thing where you want other people to be allies for your cause:

How far will we go in destroying women’s equality before a new generation of feminists wakes up? This time we hope those feminists will be of both genders and that men will understand how much equality benefits them.

But you refuse to look outside your own experience and acknowledge someone else’s fight. It just, I don’t know, to write a piece about how the kids today are doing sex wrong, but then to narrow down your definition of sex into just what your daughter and her friends are doing seems strange. In insisting that free sex —the “correct” kind—look exactly as it did forty years ago, you are severely limiting your ability to understand how and why people have sex the way they do now.